“Oh, Kitty!” exclaimed both her father and mother, aghast at the child’s bitterness.
They next tried the argument that Livingstone had been so kind to the father. He had “given him last year fifty dollars besides his salary.”
Livingstone was not surprised that this argument did not prove as availing with the child as the parents appeared to expect.—Fifty dollars! He hated himself for it. He felt that he would give fifty thousand to drop that millstone from his neck.
They next tried the argument that Livingstone wanted to have a Christmas-tree for poor children and needed her help. He wanted her to go with him to a toy-shop. He did not know what to get and wished her to tell him. He had his sleigh to take her.
This seemed to strike one of the other members of the family, for suddenly a boy’s eager voice burst in:
“I’ll go with him. I’ll go with him in a sleigh. I’ll go to the toy-shop. Maybe, he’ll give me a sled. Papa, mamma, please let me go.”
This offer, however, did not appear to meet all the requisites of the occasion and Master Tom was speedily suppressed by his parents. Perhaps, however, his offer had some effect on Kitty, for she finally assented and said she would go, and Livingstone could hear the parents getting her ready. He felt like a reprieved prisoner.
After a few moments Mr. Clark brought the little girl in, cloaked and hooded and ready to go.
When Livingstone faced the two blue eyes that were fastened on him in calm, and, by no means, wholly approving inspection, he felt like a deep-dyed culprit. Had he known of this ordeal in advance he could not have faced it, but as it was he must now carry it through.
What he did was, perhaps, the best that any one could have done. After the cool, little handshake she vouchsafed him, Livingstone, finding that he could not stand the scrutiny of those quiet, unblenching eyes, threw himself on the child’s mercy.
“Kitty,” he said earnestly, “I did you this evening a great wrong, and your father a great wrong, and I have come here to ask you to forgive me.—I have been working so hard that I did not know it was Christmas, and I interfered with your father’s Christmas—and with your Christmas; for I had no little girls to tell me how near Christmas was. And now I want to get up a Christmas for some poor children, and I don’t know how to do it, so I have come to ask you to help me. I want you to play Santa Claus for me, and we will find the toys, and then we will find the children. I have a great big sleigh, and we will go off to a toy-shop, and presently I will bring you back home again.”
He had made his speech much longer than he had intended, because he saw that the child’s mind was working; the cumulative weight of the sleigh-ride, the opportunity to play a part and to act as Santa Claus for other children, was telling on her.
When he ended, Kitty reflected a moment and then said quietly, “All right.”